McNaught and Walker Location - New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
The Awatare River, Awatere Valley, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand The Marlborough region on the South Island of New Zealand is frequently acclaimed to be the origin of the best Sauvignon Blanc wine in the world.

The question thus arises as to what the best part of the Marlborough region for Sauvignon Blanc might be? To answer this question it is necessary to have a concept of what the vine itself would want.

The ideal conditions for a Sauvignon Blanc grape are sunny days and cool, crisp nights. There should be limited wind speeds in general, though an occasional few hard storms can serve to reduce parasites and fungi. When wind speeds are predominantly high, the leaves of the vine may suffer from wind scorch, and fruit development suffers as a result.

Too much warmth will cause the grape to over-ripen, resulting in dulled flavours and flat acidity.

The ground should be free-draining to enable controlled irrigation. With a good traditional irrigation system the grapes will not bloat themselves with water, so that at harvest the ripe grape has concentrated fruit flavours in a small volume of grape.

The irrigation water should be from up-stream to avoid contaminants from run-off in agriculture along the river. The ground itself should have a neutral Ph value.

The Sauvignon Blanc vine flowers later than most other varietals. This allows the vine to survive in areas where late frost may damage other sorts.

With the above in mind, a scan of the practical (i.e. with available water) parts of Marlborough quickly leads to the Wairau and Awatere valleys, both named after their respective rivers. Away from the plains, the hills provide shelter from the worst winds most of the year round. The days are warm and the nights cool. The air and the water are possibly the purest in the world - industry is practically absent from this part of the world.

These valleys have given rise to a number of excellent wine producers varying in size from global concerns to tiny vineyards producing only a few thousand bottles a year. Most have Sauvignon Blanc in their portfolios.

Without exception these are eminently drinkable wines. Sadly, life is too short to try them all.